It could be said, after a winless 2015 campaign, that there’s no place to go but up for the Hillsboro Trojans football team.
But new head coach Devin Metzinger is headed a different direction: Wide.
“We’re a spread team; we like to spread the ball out and get wide,” he said. “We’re not a huge team, but we’re fast. We’re going to use that to our advantage as much as we can.”
Speed is just one element Metzinger is looking at as he tries to settle on a receiver corps.
Elliot Ollenburger appears to be a lock for one spot, having impressed Metzinger with his speed and toughness. Carson Herbel, Jacob Funk, and Braden Vogt are in the mix, as are Darian Ratzlaff, Elias Werth, and Joe Knoll.
“We’ve got another week to see, but I definitely think we’ve seen some guys step up to take ownership of some spots,” Metzinger said.
Quarterbacks Kaden Kleiner and Jorge Hanschu split time last year, with Kleiner the stronger passer and Hanschu more dangerous in the running game.
Metzinger hasn’t settled on a de facto starter, but likes having options for creating better matchups in games.
“The nice thing is, with the offense we’ve put in, both of those styles are good for us,” Metzinger said. “It’s really going to come down to what’s going to be best for the team as to how we’re going to get that win Friday night.
Brooks Gardner and Brandon Klassen are leading contenders for running back spots, Metzinger said. Both possess good vision and can move the ball up the field.
The Trojans won’t be big across the line on either side of the ball, but Metzinger believes the team can compensate.
“I was a small lineman in comparison to the guys I played against,” he said. “The biggest thing for us is being smart and honing in on our technique. I think we’ve done that so far.”
Tyson Reimer has moved into a guard position on offense, and already has established himself as a leader. He’ll line up next to center Brodie Rathbone, who Metzinger said is “always willing to go that extra mile to push the guys around him, and himself, to get better every play.”
Defensively, former linebacker Ben Cope could be a standout on defensive line.
“He’s taken that spot and really elevated his game,” Metzinger said. “He’s really going to be a force for us. He’s going to get better every week.”
Metzinger has put in plenty of time reviewing last year’s game films, and the development of linebacker Braden Vogt has impressed him.
“He’s really put in the work,” he said. “He’s really taken that leadership role on the defensive side.”
The Trojans will work from a 4-3 base defense, but Metzinger said he has the personnel to mix things up to put pressure on offenses with different sets, stunts, and blitzes. One of those players is Jeff Jorgenson.
“He’s got some speed, he’s got a nose for the football, and he’s not afraid of a little contact,” Metzinger said. “He’s got the toughness to come down on run support.”
It’s also a young team, but one with experience. Without any seniors on last year’s team, underclassmen got plenty of varsity minutes.
“One of the biggest things for a player is being accustomed to the speed of the game,” Metzinger said. “It’s a good confidence booster for us that we’re going to step out there Friday nights and it’s not going to be anything new.”